The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

IT'S ORGANIC AND HUMANE...REALLY: I sold a picture this week at a photographic exhibition just down the road from our happy little burg, which made me feel better but did very little for my bottom line. It was a photograph of Pete Seeger and went for $30, of which I got $22.80. It ain’t much, no two ways about it, but it’s more than I had before and I was trying to get rid of the frame anyway. I used the frame in last year’s show; in fact, the picture I had in the frame last year is still there—I just turned the cardboard backing around. Last year’s picture was that of Jesus hanging from the Cross, which, when you think about it, is a neat lesson in how being an anti-government agitator has changed from that time to this. In America, Pete Seeger got investigated by a bunch of sweaty pols hoping that investigating subversive banjo players made them look good to the voters back home and then he goes on to receive Grammys and a hotst of other honors and gets to live to a ripe old age, a time where he can look back at a life spent fighting the good fight for the poor and oppressed of the world. Jesus of Nazareth had no such luck. The Romans, who didn't give a rat's ass what the folks back home thought about anything one way or another, beat the shit out of Jesus and then nailed him to a tree as a warning to any other smart-mouthed Jewish agitators who thought that the poor and oppressed of the world had anything other than a good swift kick in the teeth coming to them and that anyone other than Tiberius Caesar was King of the Jews. America, though, is a different kind of place. Amongst other things, we have flush toilets and high definition television, not to mention Pete Seeger.

Still, the success with the Seeger picture has led to other things, as things are wont to do. After seeing the photograph, a local organic hamburger shop (no, I am not kidding) wanted some of my pictures of our happy little burg to hang on their walls. I emailed them some sample black and white pictures and they were enthusiastic about getting some 11 x 14’s of them up on their walls. I must admit that I was mildly surprised at this; urban blight looks good in black and white, to be sure, but I am still failing to see the connection between economically distressed Rust Belt areas and selling organic hamburgers. Perhaps seeing urban decay sets off an atavistic demand for meat that tastes the way it used to before refrigeration—perhaps some psychologist can explain this phenomenon—me, I just don’t know.

And what I found especially interesting was this: their hamburgers are 100% organic, they are 100% local, they are 100% grass fed, and they are 100% humane. I was not sure what a humane hamburger might be; is humanity a special topping, along with the onion and pickle, and will it cost you extra to have your burger with some humanity on it or will the cops, spoilsports that they are, let you get away with something like that? When I enquired, the young man behind the counter told me that humane in this case meant that the butcher killed the cattle with as little pain as possibly and by the most humane methods available.

If our young beef pusher meant to ease my mind, he failed. One may quibble over words like humane or painless in regard to the cow, but to the cow, the difference is largely semantic—they still wind up ground up and cooked between a bun with a side order of French fries and a frosty cold Coke. And what do they mean by humane? Did the butcher or his assistant, in an attempt to ease the cow’s mind about its imminent demise, dress up like a pair of milkmaids and creep up on the cow from behind and then shoot it a couple of times in the head when it wasn’t looking? And once they shot the cow, did they leave the gun and take the cannolis? Our young beefslinger had no answer for any of these important questions and neither did I; I didn’t even stay for a burger. Once they get my pictures up on the wall, I must go back there and see how they taste. They’re organic, after all; they must be good, right?

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